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Meet Kimberly Lee-Okonya of Life Begins Here Therapeutic & Counseling Services

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kimberly Lee-Okonya.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Kimberly. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Growing up I always had a genuine love for people. So from a young age, I knew I wanted to do something serving others. I loved to laugh with and make people smile, so naturally, I thought I wanted to be a dentist. I even worked for a dentist office in Atlanta and competed in state and national dentistry competitions in high school as apart of Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA). But being fully transparent, once in college after experiencing those chemistry classes my interest shifted to that of Psychology LOL! After college, I attended graduate school at the University of Georgia for my Masters in Clinical Social Work. Since finishing my degree, I have worked in all sectors of mental and behavioral health. From medical and mental/ behavioral health hospitals, infectious disease clinics, OB-GYN, child and family clinics to university counseling centers, outpatient clinics, and private practice. Opening my own practice had always been a goal of mine.

After all of my work in the field, I felt there were so many needs being unmet when it came to addressing mental and behavioral health within our community. After much prayer and the support of my family behind me, I opened my own behavioral and mental health private practice, Life Begins Here Therapeutic & Counseling Services, LLC in 2016. Since hanging my shingle in 2016, we have grown exponentially! In 2017 I hired an administrative assistant and in 2018 I hired a new clinician. And this year, in a couple of months actually, we will be relocating to a large office suite where I am planning to bring on more clinicians, host community events and conduct workshops and groups. I have worked hard and I am so excited about us growing in order to continue to meet the needs of the community.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has definitely been a journey and a process that has not been easy. It has been a road riddled with speed bumps, potholes, and quite a few stop signs. Building my business I have missed out on countless hours of sleep, have had to turn down several invites to outings I use to jump at the opportunity to attend and I miss having more free time to hang with loved ones. The good thing though is mostly all of my loved ones understands the grind and knows me. I’ve always been a busy bee and working towards something greater for a cause larger than I. However, I think the former part of what I mentioned honestly probably resonates with most entrepreneurs who have built a business and created a brand from the ground up.

Again being fully transparent, I have to say the hardest piece of building this business has been wearing multiple hats with the main one being mommy to two young children. What gets me through though, is knowing that part of building this business is for them. After the birth of my son, he is what ultimately encouraged me to walk away from my cozy and financially stable corporate job and start my practice. I needed more flexibility than my company at the time was willing to offer. So although at first the lemons were sour and tart, I have turned them into lemonade as I know that with the many glass ceilings that exist for women of color in corporate America, especially mothers, that through all of the struggles that come with being an entrepreneur not only am I better for my husband and children but I am ultimately building for their future and if nothing else that keeps me motivated to keep going.

Through all of this, I have learned the true meaning behind weathering the storm and trusting in and enjoying the process. Although it is difficult at times, I am enjoying the journey just as much as I am envisioning the destination of what I am manifesting and believing Life Begins Here will ultimately grow to be. Throughout my journey I am continuously learning the real meaning of self-care and creating balance; I am getting increasingly better at it each day.

Please tell us about Life Begins Here Therapeutic & Counseling Services, LLC.
Life Begins Here Therapeutic and Counseling Services, LLC is a mental and behavioral health private practice located in the Suntrust Park/ Cumberland Mall/ Windy Hill area. We work with individuals, couples, and groups and we serve teens and adults experiencing anxiety, depression, and relationship issues. I am a Gottman trained couple’s therapist so I also offer relationship, premarital and marital counseling as well. I work a lot with mother’s of color who struggle to maintain balance. I am also a DONA trained birth doula and I work with mothers and families on the mental weight that comes with pregnancy and being a new mom. We explore in-depth how that affects the relationship between partners. These are things I find most people do not talk about when learning they are pregnant and as a result, many moms suffer in silence and isolate themselves while pregnant and after birth some experience Postpartum Depression. With all of the new alarming statistics out about black women and birth/ pregnancy (i.e., we are 12.4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women and 49% more likely to have premature births, etc.) I have been getting more involved with supporting, advocating for and educating this population.

We offer workshops for couples called The Seven Principles to Making Marriage Work, which is based off the book by the leading relationship and couples expert Dr. John Gottman and Bringing Baby Home which teaches couples skills, sets expectations and opens the doors for conversations post life with a new or additional baby at home.

I am most proud that my practice has taken the challenge to break the stigma of mental health within our community and to normalize therapy. We all can benefit from having a safe, nonjudgmental, fully confidential, comforting space to process our emotions, past unresolved issues or a current event that we may be struggling with amongst other things. Seeking therapy does not mean you’re crazy; it means you’re human.

What sets me apart from other therapists and practices is my history, my doula background, my strengths-based and psychodynamic perspective coupled with just being me. I am truly a fun loving, laid back individual that marches to the beat of my own drum. I inspire people to challenge themselves to live their best lives authentically, whatever that looks like to them. And I find many of us live for who we think others believe we should be; so learning what makes us truly happy can be a difficult task. But I am there with my clients to navigate those difficulties and teach them the skills to find and maintain that authentic happiness. I am also sure not to create a fairy tale, meaning life does have some hard times. But the goal is to ensure we know the storms are not forever and that the peaks should be way more frequent than the valleys.

We also create and design therapeutic stone beaded bracelets! Many believe certain stones have healing properties and I hand make beaded bracelets for men, women, and children.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
To be honest, I do not think there is one thing in regards to my business that I would have done differently. I think everything happened in divine order and just as it should have. All the good and bad has done its part to shape the business into what it is today. All the pieces of the puzzles have fit together beautifully and that’s a blessing.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Howell Designs Studio

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